Martha Lyon, noted landscape architect from Northampton, Mass. presented a preliminary report on Owego’s Evergreen Cemetery at their regular meeting of the Village Board on Monday, May 4. Martha made a number of practical recommendations to conserve and restore the natural and built environment in the cemetery.
Martha’s analysis was funded by a Preserve New York (PNY) grant with a matching sum from the Village. The end product, a Cultural Landscape Report will be finalized this summer.
Martha’s presentation summarized the 64-page draft report. Evergreen presents a series of challenges and opportunities. Martha stressed that Evergreen Cemetery must be viewed as an asset and the importance of preserving the memory of those interred. Evergreen should be made more welcoming and the historic features preserved.
Challenges include addressing the water problems on the steep slope of East Beecher Hill, reviving the tree population, opening up the spectacular views, as well as enhancing and preserving the SaSaNa monument area. Developing new burial options, especially including options for cremains, are important.
Martha discussed briefly the historical development of Evergreen and the development of the Rural Cemetery and Lawn Cemetery styles, both of which can be seen in Evergreen.
Of special interest were Martha’s 12 specific project recommendations: 1. Commission a comprehensive drainage study; 2. Hire a State-certified arborist to inventory and assess and make recommendations for ongoing tree management; 3. Improve a visitor’s first impression with entrance upgrades; 4. Rethink the roads and devise a parking plan; 5. Redesign the SaSaNa monument setting as well as conservation treatment; 6. Redesign the summit for new interments; 7. Rework the Caretaker’s cottage; 8. Improve access to the “paupers’ area”; 9. Restore the chapel; 10. Make a plan to restore headstones and crypts; 11. Develop a coordinated sign program; and very importantly, 12. Identify and design additional interment space within existing cemetery landscape.
Martha’s report will be the springboard to begin making realistic plans for the next steps in Evergreen’s history. Martha refers to the period since 2000 in Evergreen’s 165-year history as the period of Revival, beginning with Mayor Fink’s Cemetery Commission and Emma Sedore’s work to have Evergreen listed on the National Register.
They welcome public comment and assistance as the Cemetery Committee works with the Village Board, Jeff Soules and his excellent crews, Team Tioga who secured the grant to carry out this analysis, and grant agencies to bring about a new Renaissance in Evergreen Owego.
Martha’s presentation to the Village Board can be seen as the first item on the Village Board’s agenda after public comment at the following YouTube link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAa_vLQ50uU.